Single mom dating isn't easy. Being a single mother, juggling kids and a career while trying to have a love life takes work. But it's doable. Being a single mother comes with plenty of challenges, many of which have caused me to Google how exactly to be a superhero (because so many single parents just are). Add to that pile of endless Google searches: how to have a social life while raising kids and simultaneously having a demanding career. Honestly, by the end of the day I'm so tired I can barely manage to take any time for myself before calling it a day and crawling into bed. And if we're being completely honest, the idea of making small talk with strangers is at the bottom of the list of things I want to do. Yep, dating and networking are essentially the same thing.
As Charlotte from SATC so famously said: Where is he?
Heavy sighs all around. Of course, like most, I want the end result that comes from dating: a happy relationship with a partner that I can lean on not only romantically, but as a true companion and best friend. But the work that goes into it is a bit more complicated than just making empty wishes with zero effort. Ultimately the one thing that is needed to successfully juggle a career, single parenting, and dating is the desire to
make it work. That's why I have stopped making excuses
and started pushing myself to put these simple steps into practice with online dating
. Here's my advice to you broken down into steps.
1. Use an app that meets your dating needs.
I tried using multiple apps at once, and was instantly overwhelmed. From Tinder, to Bumble, to OkCupid, to Match, it's safe to say there are many apps out there to quench your online dating desires. I chose the one that I felt represented what I was seeking in dating and a partner overall.
2. Don't judge online dating based on the creeps.
Yes, there are most certainly creeps, and it's likely that you will encounter at least a few as you try to navigate the online dating world. Keep in mind that, despite the few creeps, there are good guys (and women) out there, so just keep on keeping on.
My son is the most important person in my life, and he is my first priority. Anyone who can't understand that is immediately eliminated, which saves me time that is already limited and precious. Being honest from the get-go eliminates any confusion or issues further down the line.
4. However... do not share everything.
At least not right away. Do not unload any details about your ex, your divorce, your custody battle, etc. (you get the picture). Basically, any heavy stuff should wait until you've established an actual relationship and gotten close enough to share more intimate details of yourself/your life. If you need to vent about these things, call your friends or seek a trusted therapist to help you sort it out.
5. Be clear on what you're seeking out of this, with yourself and the other party.
Hookups, dating, and an actual relationship are very different things, and there are many people seeking a variation of the above. Make sure the person you're spending your time with is on the same exact page from the beginning.
6. Meet for coffee or a quick drink before scheduling a real date.
Chemistry and attraction is hard to mistake — if the small talk is painful or I'm just not interested, I know. Why schedule a date and waste both of our time after that?
7. Make use of your free time as a single parent.
As a single mom, I try to date exclusively when my son is with my ex. However, there are times when our schedule is not as stable as expected, so when a situation arises, I lean heavily on my circle. I also know that just because there are two parents doesn't mean that both are actively parenting (trust me, I know), so this leads to my next tip...
8. Ask your friends and family to help/babysit.
See above re: leaning on your people. Remember to return the favor and you will continue to stay in their good graces!
9. When all else fails, find a good babysitter on whom to rely.
Ask for recommendations from your circle, or use a trusted service like Care.com
to place a nanny or sitter.
10. Schedule dates on days and at times that are more convenient.
Yes, this obviously can also mean when you don't have your child, but overall think when you can manage to squeeze some adult time in. If soccer games are dominating your Mondays and Fridays, and you have a presentation you know you'll be working late on Wednesday night, but Thursday night is free and clear, plan accordingly.
11. Listen to your intuition and inner voice.
Take it slow. Allow time to pass before you make any snap decisions or introduce your children to the person you're dating. If it feels right, great. If it doesn't... Pay attention and examine why.
The advice above also applies to any potential loves you meet irl organically, of course. Prince Charming just may come strolling down grocery aisle 5 and pick up the same brand of guac you were in mid-reach of. One never knows how the stars will align.
Ultimately only you can decide if a situation or relationship is right for you and your family. Take your time and don't rush into anything. Mr. or Ms. Right will be patient and willing to take the time needed in getting to know you, and your child(ren) once the time is right. A partner worth having will always respect
your career and single parent status.
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Operations and has worked in a variety of industries over the span of her career, including digital media, fashion & apparel, and wine & spirits. She is currently a contributor to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider, Inc., Fast Company and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.